Page 24 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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CHAPTER II
LE CATEAU AND THE RETREAT FROM MONS
"LE CATEAU," "RETREAT FROM MONS"
(Maps
I
and
2)
2nd Battalion
THE SITUATION
BETWEEN the declaration of war on 5th August and the disembarka-
zxo
BrJ.
tion of the 2nd Battalion at Boulogne at 6 a.m. on 23rd August,
much had happened. The French plan of campaign was based on a
general offensive along their whole front and on the assumption that
the right wing of the invading German forces would reach about as
far west as Mons. The role allotted to the British Expeditionary
Force was to act offensively on the left of the French Fifth Army.
The latter's commander, General Lanrezac, was one of the first to
realize the complete lack of foundation for the French thesis; and he
took early steps to guard against the fact, daily becoming more
evident, that the German attempt at turning the Allied left had a
much longer "reach" than General Joffre expected.
The original orders issued to the B.E.F. to advance beyond
Mons were therefore changed to an instruction to take up a defensive
position at Mons, where on 23rd August determined German attacks
in large numbers failed before the excellent marksmanship and
coolness of the British 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th Divisions. The first two
formed the
I
Corps under Lieutenant-General Sir D. Haig, the
remainder the II Corps under General Sir H. Smith-Dorrien. As,
however, the French Fifth Army had been compelled to begin a
withdrawal, it became obvious that the B.E.F. could no longer
maintain its position. During the night of 23rd/24th August ,
therefore, it fell back and during the 24th reached the line Feignies–
Bavai-Saultain. On that day, orders were issued for it to retire to a
position near Le Cateau on which it was expected that the whole
Force would stand and fight.
It
was to cover the withdrawal of the
3rd Division on to this line that the 4th Division was pushed up to
hold a position south of Solesmes.
The 2nd Battalion had accordingly moved on 24th August by
rail from Boulogne to Bertry-a ve;ry tiring journey with no halts
long enough to be of any use-and, after teas in a field near the
station, marched to Ligny, where it bivouacked for the night, the
officers of battalion headquarters being most hospitably dined by the
mayor. Early next morning (25th August) the 12th Brigade marched
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